Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Corkulous is Fabulous

The other night on Twitter I found a recommendation for Corkulous, a creation app. I checked it out and immediately started planning ways to use it in my classroom.  There is a simple, free version. I prefer the pro version for $4.99 because it offers more creative design elements. This app is very easy to use and offers a simple tutorial.

For my first board, I decided to set up a review of expectations for Mystery Book Clubs.  The students were preparing for their first meeting and I set this board up as a checkpoint for students to make sure they were prepared.  I put three blue notes displaying the three main parts of our book club contract.  I put a visual of their Detective Case File. I listed some possible jotting ideas for them.  I connected my iPad to the Smart Board and walked students through the display as the focus of my minilesson. They were hooked!  New technology will hook them every time, my teaching pirate friends!

The students had genuine conversations about the topics I posted on the board. I recorded the names of two students who did not complete their reading. Before the minilesson ended, those students had finished their reading (I know it wasn't appropriate book club procedure, but they accepted responsibility and wanted to join their clubs).
Then the magical unicorn of teaching ran across the front of the room in all its student asked, "can we add something to your board ?"  YES!!!! So you can see in the picture above that we added in some yellow arrow reminders for Block 2 and a purple note at the top complimenting one of the groups. I know the next time book clubs meet the other clubs will be trying to get their group to earn a purple note on the corkboard!  I in no way planned that, but the students took ownership and created their own activity!

The corkboard display was equally as successful in my second block.  These students were also interested in adding elements to the board. They wanted to let Block 1 know that everyone in this class was prepared (a little friendly competition never hurt). They really wanted to know how to add the design elements onto a board.  They wanted to know what each piece of material was in the design file. When they saw that photos could be added, they said we should put pictures from clubs doing the right thing as examples.  So you can see above that we added those in with yellow explanation tags.
I think Corkulous is going to be a hit with my third graders. I already emailed our technology coordinator asking if we could add this app onto our school iPads. The students are itching to use them to create a project.  They are hooked!

UPDATE:  Each time I use this cork board, the students find more information to add on to it. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Mustache You a Question

Each afternoon our grade level has Reading Lab.  It should really be called Learning Lab because only two of us teach reading at that time.  The other 3 do STEM activities.  We also have an assistant and two kindergarten teachers who teach reading groups for us (we work as a team at my school). The students are split up according to their reading levels.
My Reading Lab group consists of twelve students who are level M and N readers.  They fall in the strategic group which is just slightly below-grade level. We meet from 3:00-3:40 which is at the very end of the day.  The children had a two hour literacy block, they ate lunch at 11:00, and they had recess at 11:30.  This means I have to find ways to hook them. Reading Lab is a great time for me to teach like a pirate and hook these readers who on the verge of taking off and being on-grade level!
This week we are working on questioning strategies.  I found some mustaches 6 for $1 at Target. They have sticky backs, but I hotglued them onto straws so the students could use them all week.
I began the lesson by using one of the props myself and said to the group, "I mustache you a question." They giggled and were immediately hooked!  They practiced reading their passage using strange accents and deep voices. I guess having a mustache just makes that happen!
They used the mustaches when they were making question jottings before, during, and after reading. They used them when they asked each other questions. One boy used his prop and asked, "I mustache you if I can go to the restroom!"
Yo, ho, ho...another simple and successful hook!





Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reading March Madness

I live in North Carolina and March Madness is a top priority!  Teachers try to find reasons to put a basketball game on the television: examining stats, multiplication facts by 2's and 3's, geography, college and career readiness. Teachers can get pretty creative! 

Last Monday during my weekly Teach Like a Pirate group chat on Twitter (#tlap), some pirate teachers shared ways they use March Madness brackets in the classroom.  This is a perfect real-life hook for my students. They live in a state that has numerous, top-rate colleges.

I decided to use the list of books we have read so far this year and create a bracket so my students could vote for their favorite books.

I made one half of the bracket fiction and the other half nonfiction. Each day students will complete a quadrant of the bracket.  In 18 school days we will be able to declare the winner. I plan on incorporating the Common Core argumentative writing standard into this activity by having students write reasons for their votes. I won't do this every day. I will do it with the first vote in each round.

The fiction brackets will be a tight race between No Flying in the House, Stone Fox, The One and Only Ivan, and Because of Winn Dixie. I predict that the Final Four will be No Flying in the House, Because of Winn Dixie, Titanic, and Rosa. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Talking Writers

Each year our third graders complete an animal research project. They work all the steps of the expository writing process--choose a topic, research, record research on notecards, draft, revise and edit, publish.  My students used KidRex as their search engine. I like this search engine because it is safe and it offers videos and text. It also helps with time management because I know where they found the websites and I don't have to worry as much.
Students kept track of where they were in the process by checking off their status on a class chart. It also helped me stay organized and current!

The end product was a plain, old, boring, handwritten, published report. Yawn!  So they could have typed them...or turned them into Power Points...or created posters with pictures printed from the internet. 

You need to teach like a pirate!  Let your students be awesome! Find a way to spark their imagination and hook them! I used the My Talking Pet app to show my students how to create talking versions of the animals they researched. They created the most amazing creatures.

We had a Wild About Writing publishing party. The principal, assistant principal, school social worker, and Exceptional Needs  teacher all stopped by to watch the videos the students created.
No animal research party would be complete without animal crackers and animal print napkins!

The party started when the students shared all of the steps they took to get to the end result.

Each student came up to the Smart Board to activate their video and to stand next to it while it played.  The students beamed and were so proud of themselves. One suggestion that helped with the success of this: students can click on their videos, but I sat at the computer to be the behind the scenes clicker in case there were technical issues. One of the students even said, "my video is having a hiccup."

They created the videos on iPads, but I downloaded the finished products into my Gaggle Digital Locker. I experienced some technical difficulties getting them to play from that source, so there is very simple way to export files from Gaggle to your Google Docs. The videos now can be shared with families.

My Talking Pet is well worth the $2.99. You can use this app to make book characters talk and provide a book summary. You could have students create talking versions of historical figures. They could make scientists talk about a discovery or share results of an experiment. Students could make a talking version of themselves explaining how to solve a math problem. You could make a talking version of yourself to deliver a class message. I think the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Data! Data! Data!

My school requires teachers to have Data Binders, but I have been using one for about 15 years. I like all of my students' information to be in one place. It makes it easy for me use during conferences and take to meetings. Some years my binder is thicker than other years, but this year is the largest it has ever been due to the increased number of assessments students are required to take during the school year.
I place my student contact sheets in the front pocket so I can easily contact families. Behind my table of contents (which I seem to constantly edit) I keep all of my passwords because who can ever keep up with all of them?!
Students are working below grade level are required to be placed on Personalized Education Plans (PEPs) so I keep all of their information in one section.
I keep my students' reading levels in a section which includes oral reading fluency, Guided Reading levels, and all of my reference charts from Reading 3D, Teachers College, and Fountas and Pinnell.

In the MAP section I keep my training booklet for when I can't remember what a report is called or what it should be used for. I record progress on charts and also keep signed copies of growth reports from parents/guardians.
I keep track of MAP goals so I know who needs reteach and who can benefit from enrichment.
Everything in my binder is designed to be easily accessible and easily understood. I keep my data current because it ensures I am differentiating for my students' needs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Can with iPads

I was featured as a guest blogger for my school district. Here is what I submitted:


Invisible Reading Strategy

Invisible ink will hook any reluctant writer! Teach like a pirate and teach your students to record their thoughts without stress or judgment. My students are in the midst of the Lucy Calkins unit Navigating Nonfiction. I amped up the lesson about mentally recording main idea and details on your hand by calling it The Invisible Strategy!
Not only did the lesson reinforce main idea and supporting details, but I was able to extend the lesson and teach Common Core vocabulary.  Sometimes the main idea isn't called the main idea!

Students added the graphic reminder to their reading notebooks.

During independent reading the students practiced using the strategy.

The Invisible Strategy was a memorable introduction to the formal reading strategy of Boxes and Bullets and helped them grasp it more easily.
The students' understanding of main idea transformed from invisible to concrete!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing to the Kid President

I have been working on developing a stronger classroom community this year. My current students are challenging because their personalities are all strong and unique. I found a common interest that they have and I thought I would use it to build some positive relationships toward this end stretch of the year. Since this common interest is from a somewhat mainstream and pop-culture person their own age, I knew it would hook my students.

My students enjoy watching the Kid President videos. So I created a writing lesson which allowed them to write a list of ideas with him as their audience. We watched his video 20 Things We Should Say More Often (click on the title to view the link). Then students wrote their own lists of things they think people should say more often.

If you watch the end of the video, you will see that Kid President adds in a bonus idea that people should dance more. My students and I decided that at the end of the day we could dance if 5 people are on outstanding at the top of the behavior chart and no more than 5 people are at the bottom of the behavior chart.
Here are some of the ideas that appear on our list, Things We Wish People Would Say More Often:



And just like Kid President, a couple of students made a Bonus item on their lists:
Yes, written above are the lyrics to Boom Boom Pow by The Blackeyed Peas!! Below you will see the lyrics to the song What the Fox Says!!